2018 Global Sustainability Predictions

January 8, 2018

Most are happy to leave 2017 behind.

 

From drastic political changes calling into question the legitimacy of global institutions, to continued climate change denial, and increased nationalism the world over, history will likely not remember 2017 as a stellar year. Will 2018 be any better? Check out Fulcrum’s predictions for the upcoming year in sustainability and decide for yourself.

 

#1 – The slow dissolution of traditional CSR

 

 

A vast majority of companies still equate sustainability with CSR. For them, CSR sits either under the marketing department or government affairs, but rarely ventures out into operations or procurement. In 2018, expect this to change in both positive and negative ways.

 

On the positive side, we will see a continued integration of traditional CSR functions across organizations. Instead of having a standalone person or department responsible for CSR, these functions will be distributed throughout companies. This will result in companies that are more value driven and provide greater sustainability impact.

 

On the negative side, there is also a high likelihood of companies getting rid of CSR altogether. We’ll see this mostly in companies that have yet to evolve beyond CSR as charity. There are only so many fun runs a company can do before executives start to question the return on investment. This is already happening to a handful of multinational firms in Shanghai, and we’d expect the unfortunate trend to continue.

 

#2 – The upheaval of global supply chains

 

 

Throughout 2017, the Chinese Government closed nearly 40% of the country’s factories in an effort to enforce stronger environmental regulations. These inspections, and closures, will continue this year as the net tightens.

 

Global supply chains have weathered the storm fairly well thus far because most closures involved mom-and-pop operations. During the 2018 round of inspections, however, expect to see more of a focus on suppliers to large multinational players. Closures in this space will send shockwaves impacting logistics, supply, and price around the world.

 

#3 – The changing face of the sustainability professional

 

 

We’re also likely to see the emergence of a new type of sustainability professional this year. Over the past several decades, people in the sector would mostly specialize in a topical area. You have energy specialists and reporting professionals, auditors and procurement folks. The list goes on.

 

As sustainability becomes more integrated throughout organizations, expect the pressure for sustainability professionals to speak as knowledgeably on energy as they do tech or operations to grow. While there will always be a need for specialists, this year we are likely to see the growth of sustainability generalists as well.

What predictions do you have for 2018? Are we in for a banner year, or another uphill battle?

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